Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Friday, February 27, 2009

Personal Learning Networks: Why Peers Are Better Than Classmates

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"Change is racing along so fast that the old learn-in-advance methods are no longer sufficient. While network infrastructure is evolving exponentially, we humans have been poking along. ... We've got to reinvent ourselves and get back on the fast track."

Photo credit: TebNad

Informal learning evangelist Jay Cross thought of this idea already back in 2003. Traditional schooling is no longer sufficient to deal with the complexity of modern society. In a world which is going to be increasingly more specialized what is really going to make the difference is your ability to explore, research and find relevant information just-in-time via the personal connections you have created over time.

That's why the connections you establish with your peers, the personal learning network that you create, are really valuable. Sharing and learning with other individuals who have your own passions and interest, is an opportunity to really learn and to get out of the traditional classrooms environment, where your desire to learn is too often suffocated by dogmatic principles and grade scales.

Get used to that: knowing things per se, and filling your walls at home with certificates, doesn't mean you're a good student or that you are better than anyone else. It just means that you can answer pre-determined questions when you are asked to. And, is this really the skill you need to be successful in your life?


Connections: The Impact of Schooling

by Jay Cross


Small wonder that executives hear the word "learning," think "schooling" and conclude "not enough payback." Executives respond better to "execution."

Everything is connected. Each of us is enmeshed in innumerable networks. You're linked to telephone networks, satellite networks, cable feeds, power grids, ATM networks, the banking system, the Web, intranets, extranets and networks that are local, wide, wireless, secure, virtual and peer-to-peer.

Social networks interconnect us in families, circles of friends, neighborhood groups, professional associations, task teams, business webs, value nets, user groups, flash mobs, gangs, political groups, scout troops, bridge clubs, 12-step groups and alumni associations.

Human beings are networks. Scientists are still conceptualizing the human protocol stack, but they affirm that our personal neural intranets share a common topology with those of chimps and other animals. Once again, everything's connected. Learning is a whole-body experience.

Moore's Law doubles computing power every 18 months, bandwidth doubles twice as fast, and connections grow exponentially with each node. Interconnections beget complexity, so we have no concept of what's ahead.


Learning Is Participation


Six years ago, Intel CEO Craig Barrett said, "We're racing down the highway at 150 mph, and we know there's a brick wall up ahead, but we don't know where." We still don't know where that wall is, but today the car would be hurtling along at 1,800 mph.

Change is racing along so fast that the old learn-in-advance methods are no longer sufficient. While network infrastructure is evolving exponentially, we humans have been poking along. Because of the slow pace of evolution, most human wetware is running obsolete code or struggling with a beta edition. We've got to reinvent ourselves and get back on the fast track.

In a world where we don't know what's coming next, what constitutes good learning? We're in whitewater now, and smooth-water sailing rules no longer apply.

  • In whitewater, successful learning means moving the boat downstream without being dumped, preferably with style.
  • In life, successful learning means prospering with people and in networks that matter, preferably enjoying the relationships and knowledge.

Learning is that which enables you to participate successfully in life, at work and in the groups that matter to you. Learners go with the flow. Taking advantage of the double meaning of "network," to learn is to optimize one's networks.


The Advantages of Networked Learning


The concept that learning is making good connections frees us to think about learning without the chimera of boring classrooms, irrelevant content and ineffective schooling. Instead, the network model lets us take a dispassionate look at our systems while examining nodes and connections, seeking interoperability, boosting the signal-to-noise ratio, building robust topologies, balancing the load and focusing on process improvement.

Does looking at learning as networking take humans out of the picture? Quite the opposite.

Most learning is informal; a network approach makes it easier, more productive and more memorable to meet, share and collaborate. Emotional intelligence promotes interoperability with others. Expert locators connect you to the person with the right answer.

Imagine focusing the hive mind that emerges in massive multiplayer games on business. Smart systems will prescribe the apt way to demonstrate a procedure, help make a decision or provide a service, or transform an individual's self-image. Networks will serve us instead of the other way around.

For tech networks, foundation meta-processing skills will foster the growth of self-determined learning. Personal knowledge management systems will store memories and facilitate rapid knowledge sharing across one's network. Alter-ego agents will seek out and present us with a balance of normal alerts and fringy out-of-the-box wake-up calls.

It beats schooling.

Originally written by Jay Cross and first published on Chief Learning Officer Magazine on November 1, 2003 as "Connections: The Impact of Schooling".

About the author


Jay Cross is a champion of informal learning, Web 2.0, and systems thinking. He served as CEO of eLearning Forum for its first five years and has keynoted major conferences in the U.S. and Europe. He is the author of Informal Learning: Rediscovering the Natural Pathways that Inspire Innovation and Performance. Jay Cross currently helps teams apply informal / Web 2.0 learning approaches to foster collaboration and accelerate performance. He is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School.

Photo credits:
Learning Is Participation - Andrey Davidenko
The Advantages of Networked Learning - Marcin Sadlowski

Jay Cross -
Reference: Chief Learning Officer [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Friday, February 27 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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